Collecting stuff in Hong Kong just a waste of space
Moving out of parents' home with all your precious belongings is not as easy as it seems
It is quite common for Hongkongers to want to move out of their parents' homes for more space, if not more freedom, after working for a few years.
"Space is definitely a problem," a female friend, who graduated from university almost five years ago, complained recently. "Unlike when I was a student, when I could wear the same uniform or jeans for almost five days a week, now I need a large wardrobe to store my dresses, shoes and handbags."
Male friends also share the same woes.
"As you get financially more independent, you start to buy stuff you really like or your parents would never buy for you. For me, it's sports shoes and comic books. I need space to house my collections," a male friend echoed, saying his younger sister's stuff already occupies a quarter of their living room.
"But we are not yet rich enough to move out, so I'm sleeping with my comic books now," he sighed.
The city's rents and home prices are soaring, but income growth for most Hongkongers is nowhere near the increase in the cost of living.
Moving out is not an option for most young people who have worked for a few years.
My parents once grumbled: "Flats in Hong Kong are so expensive, and you are using our costly space to store your stuff. Have you realised how much we are paying to keep your things?"
Let's assume my precious belongings - junk in my family's eyes - occupy about 25 square feet of our flat. At a monthly rent of about HK$30 per square foot or a flat price of nearly HK$10,000 per square foot of gross floor area where I live, it costs about HK$9,000 a year or a lump-sum price of almost HK$250,000 to keep my stuff.
My fashionista friend is paying even more. She has a huge collection of clothes and lives in a posh area where flats rent for HK$38 per square foot a month or sell for about HK$15,000 per square foot on the secondary market. That can equate to at least HK$13,000 a year or HK$450,000 if she owns the flat.
Before arriving at these rough estimates, I admit we had never realised the high cost of storing our stuff, which ranges from clothes to books and CDs.
But what are the options if we want to free up some valuable space at home? A friend gave us three suggestions.
The first is paying for storage space. A search on the internet shows the cost of renting space is between HK$9.50 and HK$13 per cubic foot in my area. For example, a 64 cubic foot space - just 4ft x 2ft x 8ft - would cost HK$788 per month or HK$9,456 per year. That does not seem to be an ideal option, given that a 64-cubic-foot space will not take much stuff, and imagine the hassle of making a trip to the storage just to get a CD.
The second option is to use the dry-cleaning services at laundry shops, which offer clients free storage of winter clothes for up to six months.
But some people, including my fashionista friend, may not want to risk having their beloved, costly and limited edition leather coats go missing.
The third proposal is the cheapest and most painful.
"Just throw away or sell your stuff if you want a more comfortable environment," our friend suggested.
Well, you can't have your cake and eat it, and in Hong Kong, you can't expect anything, least of all space, for free.